Archer: Tories join calls for peer to lose Lords seat

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The Independent Online

The Tory leadership candidates Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith last night joined calls for Jeffrey Archer to be barred from his seat in the Lords because of his conviction for perjury.

The pressure could force the Government to support backbench moves to introduce a law in the next session of Parliament to bar convicted criminals from sitting in the upper house.

A Labour MP, Harry Cohen, told The Independent on Sunday he will introduce a Bill in the autumn to end the anomaly allowing peers to sit in the Lords in spite of a criminal record while MPs automatically are disqualified from the Commons. "It's ridiculous that Archer could return to the Lords," Mr Cohen said.

In a surprise move, Labour demands for action were supported by Mr Clarke. He said: "The man [Archer] obviously turned out to be a crook. If this sentence stands he has quite rightly got to serve his time in prison and ought to leave the House of Lords."

Mr Clarke added: "People do get their honours taken away ... it's a bit odd that you don't lose your peerage."

Mr Duncan Smith said: "He [Archer] should no longer be allowed to participate in the legislature. And if that means also stripping away his title then so be it." Robin Cook, the Leader of the Commons, hinted that the Government could introduce a ban as part of long-term Lords reform, but the pressure could force it to act more quickly.

Meanwhile, The Independent on Sunday has learnt Archer was investigated about a series of alleged insider deals before the Department of Trade's inquiry into the trading of Anglia Television shares by a friend. Archer had bought 50,000 shares in the name of a Kurdish friend, Broosk Saib, in Anglia while a secret takeover bid was being made for the company, where Lady Archer was a director. They were later sold for a profit of £77,219.

In 1994 Archer was cleared for lack of evidence of insider trading and DTI officials last week said they would need fresh evidence to warrant a new inquiry.

But it has emerged that the DTI was called in earlier after the Stock Exchange was alerted to repeated heavy share buying and selling by a private investor. Officials traced the trading to a dentist in Hertfordshire. When quizzed, the dentist said he was receiving tips from Archer.

However, as with the later inquiry into Archer's purchase of shares in Anglia, the DTI inspectors found there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution.

As Archer's former colleagues disowned him, the IoS has also learnt that Gillian Shephard, the former education secretary, and John Major both refused to act as character witnesses for him during the trial. Mrs Shephard made it clear she would not defend Archer under oath.